Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Indulge me

So, some time back around 2011 I wrote a piece for a Minutes to Midnight, a collection of essays about Watchmen, the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel (actually a set of serialized comics), which ranks up there with Maus and The Dark Knight Returns as one of The Important Works of modern comics history from the 1980s. That's me up there discussing the project on YouTube a couple of years later with our editor and my interwebs pal Richard Bensam, Julian Darius from Sequart, the publisher, and contributor Geoff Klock.

This experience came back to me recently when I was notified by an academic papers website to which I subscribe that I had been cited in some papers. I knew it must be this essay that was cited. I didn't want to pay the premium to see the citations on the papers site, so I just Googled and found three academic papers that used my essay as source.

Only because I had mentioned to a friend at work today how, as a technical college dean, I do so little pedagogical work - most of my time is spent in administrivia, problem-solving, and negotiation - am I going to indulge myself here by going though the citations. It'll remind me that I once was a scholar, and may actually wind up being instructive and/or fun.

First up: a thesis for an M.A. in History of all things.

Here's the only citation from that paper:
Pretty straightforward. Next up is a dissertation for a doctorate in English - from Switzerland:

There were three citations in the text of this paper:

and one more acknowledgement in a footnote:

"All detais" - yeah, I'm comprehensive. And finally, there's this:

According to Google translate, this is another master's thesis, this time in Literature:

Oskari Rantala
Reddish-red copies of the brushes
Repeated boxes  in the cartoon novel Watchmen
Master's thesis  
University of Jyväskylä  
Department of Arts and Culture  
March 2014

There are three citations in the paper, but I am only going to show one, since Finnish is so wildly different from English:
  Once again Google translate helps with the text:

Walter Hudsick (2011, pp. 14-16) mentions the MAD magazine parody strip Superduperman! (1953), science fiction book Larry Niven's "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" (1971) and Robert Mayer's novel Super-Folks (1977). Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, however, brought this revisionist attitude to the first superhero mainstream.

But what I think is even cooler than being cited is having the paragraph in which you are cited interrupted by a footnote citing Umberto Eco! That footnote reads

Umberto Eco (1979, p. 114) has rightly pointed out that Story Men are surrounded by a dreamlike state in which both the earlier and subsequent adventures - the existence of which are known at some level - are very ambiguous, and the contradictions of the stories are not paid attention.

That's it - my academic glory, such as it is. Makes me want to get my own thesis out, and just hold it, like a high school hero holding the game ball from years before.


Anyway, if you want to read my essay in its entirety along with a bunch of other good writing, just clock the image below to purchase a copy or look wherever fine, citeable, scholarly works on funnybooks are sold.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Have a Compassionate Fourth

So, I wanted to say something this Independence Day. The current political scene is fraught with the problematical nature of patriotic displays, which seem to have been co-opted by those willing to see our putative democracy slide from oligarchy into downright autocracy while they wave their flags and wear their red baseball caps. But I wanted to try.

I have always wanted feel more patriotic than I do; I suffer from the conflict between appreciating all that the USA promised to be and the understanding of all that it actually has been. Years ago, Robert Mayer's retired hero in Superfolks captured the quandary thus:

I have thought about how to resist that cynicism and support the justice and virtue that we are supposed to stand for.  How do we celebrate Independence Day when our history includes Manifest Destiny, slavery, and exploitation? Where do we start? Perhaps with the constitution.

Justice, tranquility, general welfare, blessings of liberty - those internal values are right there alongside common defense, the only outward-facing purpose articulated. Values which, I might add, seem threatened in some new way just about every day lately. I can get behind these values, the ones we, the people, are supposed to stand for.

We, the People - another piece of the patriotism puzzle that I can't let go of, even though university professors tell us we're no longer a democracy. This piece fits nicely beside the E Pluribus Unum that heads the page - the unifying motto of the U.S. until it was shoved aside by the theocratic In God We Trust in the red-baiting, atheist-hating fifties.

Maybe we can get past our bigotry and xenophobia, embrace the diversity in our country, mend the wounds of colonialism and slavery and sexism and nativism, and build the country that we say we want to be. United together, We, the People, can do this; I can celebrate that.

There's still a hitch in the giddyup before I go shooting off fireworks (although I really can't stand fireworks, since they make life miserable for pets and wildlife, not to mention many veterans.) Even if We, the People, can wrest our democracy back from the oligarchs and the autocrats, we're still stuck in a capitalist, consumerist, corporationist system that does no good to our souls, our world, or our society. Once upon a time, I thought there might be something like compassionate capitalism; I have come to the conclusion that that is a logical impossibility, since capitalism is by its nature exploitative and unfair. And compassion seems to be notably absent from the current political discourse. People seem willing to destroy the planet for profits and to allow people to die rather than feel empathy for them; capitalism is not reflective or empathetic or compassionate. And I believe compassion is what we need.

This divide between compassion and patriotism is explored in this article from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, which is well worth the reading. But really, the circumstances only leave me with one place to go:

What could be more patriotic than the longstanding American tradition of the red, white, and blue, and, uh, red?

 No, seriously:

I'll be patriotic and keep working toward Democratic Socialism in the USA. That I can celebrate.

So here's some fireworks:

Happy Fourth of July everyone.